What is Lokot in Russian

By Grigorij Reichman

"Because a diligent goal is worse than an enemy", - teaches us the fable poet Ivan Krylov in "The Hermit and the Bear". And then what about a high-spirited (and cultureless) official of the cultural establishment of an entire region who tries to make it clear that his word, which he roaringly announces to his opponent, is the only logical solution, and that only he knows how to do it stay on the ground in the science of history? Isn't such a fool also worse than an enemy?

What's all this about?

In one of my Facebook posts I wrote about a hard-working colleague from Russia, a historian and archivist, whose name I did not want to give at the time, because I feared that it would make her situation even more difficult. Officials began to hunt them down and vilify them for trying to take an objective, scientific point of view on events 75 years ago - heroic and tragic at the same time, that happened in a particular region of Russia and in connection with World War II, the Nazi Occupation regime, collaboration, the Russian People's Liberation Army, anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. The colleague referred to her archive documents.

The enormous pressure exerted by officials in the Russian administrative region, who are apparently foreign to freedom of speech and professional ethics, forced the colleague to defend herself as an expert and to enforce her constitutional right to freedom of expression.

I therefore feel compelled to speak openly about them after all. Her colleague's name is Jekaterina Derewjanko and she worked in the state archive of the administrative region of Bryansk (270 kilometers southwest of Moscow, near the three-country triangle Russia - Ukraine - Belarus). During the "Great Patriotic War" (1941-1945), the Brjansk area was one of the main areas of activity of the partisans in Russia. But the area was much more than that. It's not just about the heroism of the Russians, but also about collaboration, that is, the cooperation between the locals and the German occupiers. The village of Lokot in the Brjansk region became the center of the "Republic of Lokot", a country that has been under self-administration by Russian collaborators since the Nazis' invasion; without Jews and communists, of course.

Ekaterina Derewjanko, the international Holocaust researcher

Yekaterina's merit is that, with the help of her archival data (many documents from this period were kept in the Bryansk Archives) in the article “The History of Lokot Self-Government in the Documents of the State Archives of the Bryansk Region”, she tried to create a picture of the everyday life of these collaborators to create. (By the way, she did internships abroad on the subject of the Holocaust, in particular at the Israeli Yad Vashem Institute and in the house of the Wannsee Conference in Berlin). And right after her great job, she was heavily criticized for her "lack of patriotism".

Yekaterina Derevyanko: “In the article I bring facts from the history of the Lokot Republic, based on documents from the archive. The aim is to find out why such an organization of collaborators existed in the occupied territories of Bryansk and the neighboring counties and how exactly it worked. "

In other words, she was primarily looking for the "why?"

The higher administrative officials, however, immediately announced that their work was not up to the challenges of modern Russian society, which is more of a glorification of history. The author was quickly asked to delete the described housekeeping in the Lokot area from the article.

Soviet veterans from Israel helped

The Brjansk officials also don't like the fact that Yekaterina Derevyanko spent more than 10 years researching the Holocaust in Russia. She worked hard for the exhibition on the subjects of the Holocaust and the heroism of the people in the Bryansk Regional Museum. For this, her colleagues from the Military History Museum in Hadera in Israel have also sent documents. She also received information from war veterans living in Israel who were born in the Brjansk region.

Oh, if only the attacks by the officers had been limited to occasional outbursts of anger. Because as soon as the 9th of May (Victory Day) was just around the corner, the powerful administrators bombed our historian with a whole arsenal of bans and tried to force her out of her job.

“I can no longer appear on TV, speak about it in public, or hold events with students. My work, research into the history of the Holocaust and collaboration has been curbed. "

Fortunately, Ekaterina does not give in, shows courage and is determined to face an open discussion with her opponents.

Some defenders have already taken their side. For example, there are two Russian military historians from Moscow, Dmitrij Schukow and Iwan Kovtun. These "men of honor", whose active engagement I have been following for ten years, delight their historian colleagues with interesting, extraordinary publications. However, neither of them are “desk criminals”, so they scoured the entire Bryansk administrative region on foot. And the experts know exactly about Lokot and what happened there more than 75 years ago.

Her assessment of Yekaterina's activity is as follows:

“To interpret the past, to understand its meaning, its lessons and its consequences is an extremely difficult task that requires not only thorough research but also great courage. The historian Ekaterina Derewjanko shows us precisely these qualities and tries to fight against forgetting about topics that one tries to cover up. That was the main reason for the persecution of a woman, an archivist, who objectively sheds light on the terrible years of the occupation. "

Here is a rather impartial assessment of regional cultural management:

“Indeed, officials in the city of Bryansk are trying to make the subject of collaboration a taboo and to marginalize this question without understanding that their actions transport the question of collaboration with the National Socialists out of the field of science and into the 'alternative scene'. Once you get into this scene, the door is open to all pseudoscientific interpretations, legends and falsifications. In this way, the younger generations will be confronted with myths in the future and the complexity of this topic will be lost. "

“Functionaries who misunderstand the tasks of historical science play into the hands of history falsifiers,” wrote the military historians in a letter in defense of their colleague.

I think Ekaterina Derevyanko is not alone. Like-minded people like Tatiana Schukowa, Olesja Petrowskaya, Valery Jekimzew, Galina Tschebanowa or Irina Tschernjak are ready to support them in Bryansk. A letter is already being prepared in Moscow to the regional administration requesting that the matter be dealt with more seriously and that the historian be denigrated by overzealous and unprofessional officials.

And I am sure that the voices of foreign historians, who appreciate the knowledge and experience of their Russian colleague, will give us additional strength.

To the civil servants, who are clearly lacking in culture, I would like to ask the question: "Do you not understand that defaming a professional who presents a historically correct picture of events delays the development of science in our country?" what Ekaterina is doing, exactly what her critics should be doing too. You should finally do your job. Ekaterina Derevyanko's research enriches not only the Bryansk region, but the entire Russian Federation.

Grigory Reichman

The author is a historian, journalist and has dealt with the topics of World War II and the Holocaust for decades.

“Unfortunately, this problem is also looming in other regions of Russia that were once in Hitler's hands. The fact has been mentioned several times that the Russian authorities do not like the talk about the Holocaust on Russian soil and have very successfully set up numerous commissions to hinder this “falsification of history”. A historian almost lost his job at the university, which is located in an area once occupied by the Nazis. That was almost ten years ago. He was told that continuing to study the murder of Jews by Russian citizens bordered on high treason and should therefore be stopped.

How could such a peace-loving people as the Russian go out and kill and rob Jews? The bad guys were the Ukrainian and Belarusian police officers, Lithuanian “forest brothers” (resistance fighters) and Latvian legionnaires!

I really wish that the historical truth did not depend on the political situation, and that selfish stubborn heads would no longer put the scientists under pressure and would not dare to enclose the history of the Holocaust in a corset they would like and tolerate. "

Translated from Russian: Edgar Seibel

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